In The Charismatic Gymnasium Maria José de Abreu examines how Charismatic Catholicism in contemporary Brazil produces a new form of total power through a concatenation of the breathing body, theology, and electronic mass media. De Abreu documents a vast religious respiratory program of revival popularly branded as “the aerobics of Jesus.” Pneuma—the Greek term for air, breath, and spirit—is central to this aerobic program, whose goal is to labor on the athletic elasticity of spirit. Tracing the rhetoric, gestures, and spaces that together constitute this new theological community, de Abreu exposes the articulating forces among evangelical Christianity, neoliberal logics, and the rise of right-wing politics. By calling attention to how an ethics of pauperism vitally intersects with the neoliberal ethos of flexibility, de Abreu shows how paradoxes do not hinder but expand the Charismatic gymnasium. The result, de Abreu demonstrates, is the production of a fluid form of totalitarianism and Christianity in Brazil and beyond.
Maria José de Abreu is assistant professor of anthropology at Columbia University.
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